It hangs in my memory, isolated. I can’t reminisce because there is no one else that would remember it. It’s weird, such an impactful experience.
I remember the hot sweaty dance club, our senses heightened by days off the grid. I remember the cold mountain air at night. I remember the night before we started climbing, laying in a park in Aspen, watching the fireworks. The mountain air, warm during the day froze us. We huddled for warmth and the next day bought warmer clothes.
The trip guides, US Marshalls, packing heat, a husband and wife team. Tough people that go in harms way so we can sleep at night.
As usual I found someone to hang with. Most people paired off on these trips or just happily hiked alone. Her and I always lagged behind the others, laughing hysterically at stupid shit. Having a stare down with a marmot, rolling our eyes at the super OCD guy. Both of us lying without planning it, claiming altitude fatigue while the rest of the group explored from base camp. As soon as they left we took off on our own hike. They had a nice hike but we climbed higher and glissaded down a steep hill covered with snow in early July.
Mr. and Mrs. US Marshalls gave us a look when they got back to camp.
“You said you were tired. You know you shouldn’t have gone off like that.”
We each returned the look. Relax. It wasn’t like we got eaten by a bear or anything.
Someone in our group got lost in the woods at night returning from a bathroom break. Over morning coffee, they tried to justify it, “the rocks looked like tents and the tents looked like rocks.” Where at 2am there had been concern, now after being awakened by screaming in the middle of the night, our reactions were caustic. It’s hard to get back to sleep when you’re awakened by something that sounds like two bobcats fighting. Looking back on it, they took the ribbing pretty well. To be honest, it happens.
There were a lot of people with long legs on that trip, so the hiking was fast, which at 11,000 feet for several days in a row is grueling. No one complained, but we did force a change in itinerary. Why not camp here for a few days and explore with day hikes?
Everyone agreed, and its the way those trips usually went.
Back to the dance club. If you have ever spent significant time in the backcountry, once you lose the sensations of civilization everything sharpens. Instead of hearing your neighbors car alarm you can hear a twig break hundreds of yards away. You can hear a stream long before you get close to it and you smell EVERYTHING. And so the club, the loud band covering Talking Heads and the closeness of all the bodies was like a spike in my senses, and that is why it sticks.
It comes back to me in bits…
The penetrating cold of the mountain air at night.
The alpine meadows covered in mountain Bluebells.
In Aspen, the night before we hit the trail, lying on our backs watching the fireworks arching overhead, lighting up the towering mountains surrounding us.
Mr. and Mrs. US Marshalls shaking their heads, wondering what they’d gotten into.
OCD guy going on about how to make beef stroganoff over a fire.
My hiking partner laughing like a hyena.
Glissading down a steep hill towards a pristine mountain lake and lucky we didn’t break our fool necks.
The hot smell of bodies in the dance club.
I try to put them together, to relive the experience, but it’s all pieces parts.
None of us met before the trip.
None of us met again after.
But for 10 days we were together, intense and interdependent.
We are, each of us, disconnected.
© Glenn R Keller 2022, All Rights Reserved